Some of you may remember who Betty Crocker was. For those of you who don’t, Betty Crocker was a fictional character, created in the 1920s to give a friendly face to cooking and baking products. She was a cultural icon right through the mid-90s. To many over the decades, she represented kindness and goodness personified.
A dear friend of mine’s dad was an exec with General Mills, which owned the Betty Crocker name and likeness. He had a company portrait of “Ms. Crocker” on his home office wall. Whenever one of his children would act up or say something deemed inappropriate, their mother would ask: “What would Betty Crocker do?” The errant child knew immediately what that meant. Betty Crocker certainly wouldn’t say or do whatever misbehavior the child exhibited. it was a surprisingly effective disciplining technique that my friend has never forgotten.
To this day, when she’s in a quandary about something, my friend will ask herself: “What would Betty Crocker do?” and she knows right away what would be the appropriate, usually moral, high road to take.
You may have your own version of Betty Crocker (fictional or otherwise), the name matters not. What matters is that you have a ready example for yourself of how you would like to behave.
One of the most critical things such a “moral high road” person can teach us, is how to use our words to help, not to hurt.
You may think you can only hurt someone by name-calling, and certainly, attaching nasty labels to people is hurtful: “you’re bad, stupid, lazy." What we too often ignore, is how criticism--not just name-calling--can be more hurtful than helpful. To say to someone “You’re doing that wrong,” “You never help with the dishes,” “You’re always late,” may be accurate statements, but they may not be helpful.
Before you open your mouth to criticize, think first. What do you want to achieve? Do you want that “wrong” thing done differently? Instead of criticizing, suggest, graciously: “Did you want some help with that? I may know a way that’s easier.” If they say “no,” leave it be. Do you want help with the dishes? Ask for it, nicely! “Would you help me please with the dishes?” If you want someone to show up on time, ask for it (nicely!) in a way that’s more truthful: “I worry when I don’t see you at the time we agreed on. Can you text me or something if you’re running late?”
Yes, you may need to have a full-on conversation with the person about failure to help, or chronic lateness, but for that, you’ll want to engage in a proper discussion using good communication skills, which are beyond the scope of this post.
For now, simply ask yourself “What would Betty Crocker do?” and see how far you can get with a small dose of graciousness, of simply being nice.